Yesterday in my blog, I wrote an Open Letter to Carolina Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton addressing his behavior after Sunday’s Super Bowl. To say the least, I received a significant number of negative responses.
I can understand some of the reasons why, and I have chosen not to read some of them because it might drag me down into something I have been so desperately trying to avoid—emotional response. I’ve done enough of that in the past and I’m ashamed of it because I know it’s not Christ-like behavior.
In fact, one of them implied that it might be my allegiance to the University of Alabama football team and the fact that Cam Newton played for Auburn. It’s not about that at all, but that’s too lengthy of an issue to address here.
After much prayer and thought, and listening to what the wisdom the Lord is trying to impart to me, I have come up with the following. I’ve already shared this with a couple of readers, with a couple of adjustments:
Yesterday I wrote what I believed to be a heartfelt letter to Cam Newton. I meant it with all sincerity and love. Even though I felt like I was writing the column in love, I didn’t write it with the authority of Christ. After a great deal of prayer and thought, I’ve actually grown up a lot since then. Let me explain:
I completely understand that Cam Newton was under a lot of pressure and disappointment after the game. As a reader pointed out to me, yes, he did have someone, a Broncos player, berating him during the press conference. It’s enough to drive anyone over the edge.
But here’s the thing. Everybody says Cam Newton is a Christian. There’s no reason for me to dispute that he has accepted Christ in his life. He’s been seen praying with Steph Curry, and he grew up the son of a Pentecostal preacher. I get that. But does that mean that Cam Newton has a relationship with Christ?
We can profess Christ all day long, but still ignore relationship with Him. I know. I did it for far too long in my life. I didn’t know what the Cross of Christ is really all about. Jesus said in Matthew 7:16, “You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act (NLT).”
For far too long in my life, I ignored what Jesus said in that passage. Jesus’ death on the Cross brought His grace into our lives, so I am forgiven for my disobedience to Him because I have repented and asked for forgiveness. That’s why He died for me, so that I wouldn’t have to taken on that punishment, and I am grateful.
Jesus also said in Matthew 5:44, “But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” If Cam Newton indeed has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ—and that’s what Jesus wants from all of us—then maybe he should have stepped back, took that all in, hesitated, prayed for that person who was berating him and answered the reporters’ questions with grace. He could have said, “give me a minute.”
Again, I know that is a huge stage, and that there was a lot of pressure involved. My letter to him was to say, “show you belong to Christ by the way you handle the situation and the way you act.” If we as believers, or those who profess to follow Christ, won’t show the world that we belong to Him, then who will? A lot of people are going to be surprised on Judgment Day when Jesus says to them, “Depart from me, I never you.” I might have been one of those people in the past, but by God’s grace I am learning every day to die to myself, serve others and take up my cross for Him.
People are giving me grief about not addressing Tom Brady or Peyton Manning’s behavior. Are they Christians? Do they have a relationship with Christ? I don’t know. But if not, they can’t be held to the same standards as Christ followers. And if so, I would say the very same thing to them. I remember Manning’s actions and were disappointed in them, although I still had a lot of growing to do at that time (and I still do).
Also, about Cam Newton’s charitable deeds, etc. That’s all well and good, and he should be commended for that. I also said that he should be commended for bringing some fun back to the game of football. I get it. He’s a good person. But I know a lot of good people who deny Christ. They do a lot of good deeds. But our works and good deeds have nothing to do with our salvation and our relationship with Jesus, correct?
Cam Newton said this week, “I know who I am. I’m not about to conform or bend for anybody’s expectations.” What about Christ’s expectations? Does he not expect us to act differently than the world? Does 2 Corinthians 6:17 not say, “Therefore, come out from among them and be ye separate?” Is he not supposed to conform to Jesus’ expectations of our behavior? He’s not special.
What this has to do with is the fact that Cam Newton has been given a huge privilege by God. He has been given a worldwide platform—and let’s not kid ourselves, he has captured the world’s attention—and it’s a platform that not many have. If in fact he is a true Christ follower, I pray that he uses that platform to let his light and inner beauty shine before men, as Matthew 5:16 says, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Luke 12:48 also says, “For to whom much is given, of him much shall be required.”
I’ve been told that I am tearing him down and not concerned about his relationship with Christ because of what I wrote. Nothing could be further from the truth. We live in very dark times right now, and many people are dying and going to hell because they’re more concerned about a football game than they are the things of Christ. They idolize sports as I used to, and that grieves my spirit. I just don’t want to see Cam Newton, who again has a huge platform, to not use it to further the kingdom of Christ.
Again, I was just as big a fan as anyone else, but I’ve discovered that football is insignifcant when it comes to our Christ walk. God wants us to draw near to him every day. Cam Newton has a big opportunity to win people to Christ. I wish I had his platform to shout it from the rooftops.
Cam Newton and other Christian athletes, for the kingdom’s sake, I implore you to keep Matthew 5:16 in mind at all times. Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Your light for Christ could shine so brightly if only you would let it. Be that salt and light God commands from us. You can be a world changer.
I am not out to get Cam Newton, as many people inferred. My letter was to hope that he can develop a stronger relationship with Christ and let people see that He is a child of God by his actions and by his words. I pray that that indeed is what he sees in himself and will use it for God’s glory. Cam Newton can speak with the authority of Christ, as God has given all of us in His Word. Cam Newton can be a world changer for Jesus.
God bless you all.
Shawn A. Akers is the online managing editor at Charisma Media. He is a published poet and published a story about Dale Earnhardt in NASCAR Chicken Soup for the Soul. You can read his blog here. To sign up for his newsletter, “Step Out of the Boat,” and other Charisma newsletters, click here. You can also listen to his podcasts, theJavelin Sports Show, on the Charisma Podcast Network.